Mechanizing Alignment

miggyG777

Explorer
John Wick, in his take on reforming D&D in "Santa Vaca - A Hack of the Worlds Most Popular RPG" on alignment:
It’s not a mechanic.

I mean it. Alignment is not a mechanic.

It has no mechanical significance. It doesn’t interact with any other mechanics. It has no real consequences or benefits. Most importantly, you can remove alignment from the game and lose nothing. You know it. You’ve done it.

So, why not make alignment matter? I mean, if I have to keep it (and according to my own rules, I do), we might as well make it matter.
He proposes a system where a player can allocate 5 points into Lawful, Chaotic, Good and Evil. According to the players stats in these alignment categories, the player may then, once per session, invoke a bonus on a roll that falls in line with one category. (The players are allowed to invest into contradicting categories.)

The categories are defined as follows:
Law wants Obedience, Structure and Order.

Chaos wants Freedom, Liberty and Self-Reliance.

Good wants Selflessness, Altruism and Comfort.

Evil wants Pain, Hatred and Suffering.

Example:

Player (Lawful: 3, Chaotic: 1, Good: 1, Evil: 0)

Player: "I want to trip the thief that just stole the womans purse"​
DM: "Roll an acrobatics check vs DC 15."​
Player: "Got a 13 with proficiency."​

DM: "I see you have +3 in Lawful, since this is a Lawful action and you haven't used your bonus today, you may apply it to your roll."​
Player: "Awesome, I will do that."​

After the game is over the player that used a daily bonus rolls a d6 vs the current bonus number in the invoked category, in this case Lawful (3). If the rolled number is equal or higher than the current modifier, the stat increases by 1. However, the totally allocated points cannot exceed 5.

Player: "Rolls a 4."​
DM: "Ok nice, your Lawful bonus increases to +4. However you need to subtract a point from somewhere else."​
Player: "Ok, I lose a point in Good." (Lawful: 4, Chaotic: 1, Good: 0, Evil: 0)​

A Neutral character is not one that is "balanced" but rather a character that is not affected by the system at all. He can neither use these modifiers, nor can he be affected by anyone that tries to use them on him.

This enables the DM to utilize the alignment system a whole lot better, while also letting the players be on the same page, on why something happens to them. I.e. the Lawful Good Paladin has accumulated 2 Evil points and now his god is mad at him.
On top of making the very vague concept of alignment more tangible it also allows for characters to evolve and capture these gray areas of where a Lawful Good guy, under the right circumstances, can become Evil.

I am contemplating on testing this system, or a variation thereof in my game. I do agree that alignment needs to be better utilized and like the idea of capturing it in a gamified system, that I feel, will add more flavor to my table.

Now to why I open this thread. Besides sharing this interesting idea and putting it out there for discussion, I want to inquire, if you guys already do utilize the alignment system at your table and if so how, or if you just neglect it, like I did so far.
 
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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I treat alignment as more descriptive than prescriptive. It doesn't limit your actions so much as describe your attitudes and tendencies. I guess my treatment of alignment tends toward benign neglect, and more something for a player to figure out about their character than anything I need to get involved with as DM.

I think that trying to keep track of what each player has for this on their character sheet is adding load on the DM, and declining that sort of thing is why I have so far only engaged with Traits and such to the extent the players have (I think that is also something the player can use to get a better handle on the character, not something that really needs to be mechanically rewarded/penalized.)
 

miggyG777

Explorer
I treat alignment as more descriptive than prescriptive. It doesn't limit your actions so much as describe your attitudes and tendencies. I guess my treatment of alignment tends toward benign neglect, and more something for a player to figure out about their character than anything I need to get involved with as DM.

I think that trying to keep track of what each player has for this on their character sheet is adding load on the DM, and declining that sort of thing is why I have so far only engaged with Traits and such to the extent the players have (I think that is also something the player can use to get a better handle on the character, not something that really needs to be mechanically rewarded/penalized.)
As I would see it, using the aforementioned mechanism increases the likelihood of the players actually utilizing the alignment system and it significantly changes the way of how they can do so.
It no longer is just an obscure framework, that, at best, fuels a debate on why the paladin can never do evil things or what it means to be true neutral. Instead, it now is another layer of fun, that the players want to engage with during the session.

And in my experience the players usually let you know when they have a game mechanics at their disposal that is fun to use or benefits them.
Thus I don't see how the workload for the DM would be increased at all, in a significant way, since the bookkeeping will be done solely on the player side.
And I would go as far as to argue, that glancing at a players current alignment scores, is at least as fast of a way of reminding yourself on where things stand, in terms of character development, than reading and writing down notes yourself.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It sounds like he's at least a little inspired by the personality characteristics in Pendragon. You range between 2 opposing descriptions like Lustful and Chaste, up to 20 in each either and the two together have to add to 20. If you do something particularly lustful, you roll on it and if you roll above, you shift 1 point away from Chaste and up the Lustful scale.
But I don't think a 5 point scale is broad enough, ultimately, nor would I use the stat directly as a modifier. Better to offer modifiers for having and maintaining an extreme measure in one. Pendragon, for example, allows a PC to allocate a value up to 15 and benefits may accrue if they manage to maintain multiple personality traits in the 16+ range. So, it ain't easy to do.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Hmm. I think this is a nifty way to have a mechanical impact for alignment without making it oppressive. As long as the player is the one who decides to roll or not.

The one thing I would want with any "alignment matters" scheme is to nail down exactly what Lawful and Chaotic mean. A lot of very different ideas get lumped into that axis. Is Lawfulness about obeying society's rules? Or following a personal code (which may be wildly at odds with society)? Or being organized and disciplined? Or promoting order and law?

D&D has put forward all of these at various times. Often the same act can be strongly Lawful or totally Chaotic depending on the definition you pick.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
The one thing I would want with any "alignment matters" scheme is to nail down exactly what Lawful and Chaotic mean. A lot of very different ideas get lumped into that axis. Is Lawfulness about obeying society's rules? Or following a personal code (which may be wildly at odds with society)? Or being organized and disciplined? Or promoting order and law?
From the blog post:
Law wants Obedience, Structure and Order.

Chaos wants Freedom, Liberty and Self-Reliance.

Good wants Selflessness, Altruism and Comfort.

Evil wants Pain, Hatred and Suffering.
 
The one thing I would want with any "alignment matters" scheme is to nail down exactly what Lawful and Chaotic mean. A lot of very different ideas get lumped into that axis. Is Lawfulness about obeying society's rules? Or following a personal code (which may be wildly at odds with society)? Or being organized and disciplined? Or promoting order and law?
I think the best way to look at it is society vs individuality. A lawful person will tend to act in the interest of the whole, rather than person interest, for a variety of reasons (harmony for good and fear for evil). A chaotic person will tend to act in ones self interest, but that doesn't automatically mean selfishness (opposing a tyrant may benefit society, but it also benefits the individual).
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
I guess I don't understand why you want to do this or what you hope to accomplish by adding it to the game. What is the design goal? How do the mechanics get you to that goal?
 

miggyG777

Explorer
I guess I don't understand why you want to do this or what you hope to accomplish by adding it to the game. What is the design goal?
In short: With adding a marginal amount of complexity a whole new mechanics of character development, story telling devices, such as interaction with the natural alignment entities and more player agency over the story are added.
Or: Alignment is finally not just some ancient relic anymore, that somehow had to be included in 5e, yet was stripped of any of its ramifications, that it carried in the earlier versions of D&D.

How do the mechanics get you to that goal?
  • Alignment now interferes with dice rolling if the player wishes so.
  • The framework can be used to create story by the DM. I.e Evil: 2 Good: 3, evil and good forces try to influence the player characters decisions.
  • The player has the ability to reform his character by his own decision inside the framework through deciding which powers he wants to call upon.
 
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miggyG777

Explorer
Fine if you want to debate about alignement every game!
With a defined framework of what the alignment categories represent, as mentioned in the first post, I would see this kind of arguing every game as failure on the DMs part to referee the game.
 

Coroc

Hero
.....Player: "I want to trip the thief that just stole the womans purse"
DM: "Roll an acrobatics check vs DC 15."​
Player: "Got a 13 with proficiency."​
DM: "I see you have +3 in Lawful, since this is a Lawful action and you haven't used your bonus today, you may apply it to your roll."

In most countries of the world and nearly everywhere in the past .... yes this would qualify as upholding the law... these days though in most western countries:

DM: I see you have +3 in lawful, since that is a chaotic evil action you get a -3 modifier and roll with disadvantage.
Player manages the trip anyhow
DM: The city watch approaches you: How dare you, as a privileged adventurer to hamper this poor man who just wants to feed his ten hungry children. You are going to jail and the judge decides your fate tomorrow. Before that pay 3g to this poor guy for the bodily harm you did cause him ....
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
I use aligment and allegiances (religion, race, tribe, brotherhood, country, code of honor) and allowing alignment with opposite allegiance (for example a sheriff who is breaking the rules to defend the law or a zealot who wants a better world but chosing the wrong way), and spells and other powers can hurt enemies with same alignment but different allegiance, for example a drow cleric against an orc shaman.

My concept of chaotic good is different, meaning somebody too attuned to nature or primal powers, or somebody who respect the Natural Law but he would rather minimal power of control by the state.
 

Olrox17

Explorer
Interesting, but I think there's a weakness in the mechanic. If you happen to have 0 points in a specific alignment, you'll never have any reason to invoke it, because you'd get a +0 to the roll. So, a character that only has lawful and good points, will only ever have lawful and good points, never chaotic or evil ones.

No room for change or temptation over time.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
Interesting, but I think there's a weakness in the mechanic. If you happen to have 0 points in a specific alignment, you'll never have any reason to invoke it, because you'd get a +0 to the roll. So, a character that only has lawful and good points, will only ever have lawful and good points, never chaotic or evil ones.

No room for change or temptation over time.
Good catch. I have thought about this too and I came up with different solutions:

Perhaps one could make the baseline of each stat a +1 by default and let the player distribute 4 points on top of that.

Or maybe it is not a problem at all. Why would the player not invoke a +0 to add flavor to his character? I mean technically if a character has +3 good and +1 evil, it makes less sense to invoke evil still, since good always gives him a bigger bonus. But there might be times where the character wants to call upon the powers of evil i.e to hurt the guy that killed his family in a bad way and open new story options that way.
So rather than the alignment stats being the cause of why a character acts in a certain way, they are an effect of how the character acts.
Nobody is stopping the player to put 5 points into good and only ever invoke that to get the maximum bonus, but this way the bonus will only be applicable in e certain subset of scenarios. So by diversifying and changing alignments he might forgo an immediate bonus that he could have used and open up new ways to use it in the future.

Or perhaps the DM decides that the character has to roll a d6 to increase an alignment stat because of his actions without the player invoking the power himself.
 
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Olrox17

Explorer
Good catch. I have thought about this too and I came up with different solutions:

Perhaps one could make the baseline of each stat a +1 by default and let the player distribute 4 points on top of that.

Or maybe it is not a problem at all. Why would the player not invoke a +0 to add flavor to his character? I mean technically if a character has +3 good and +1 evil, it makes less sense to invoke evil still, since good always gives him a bigger bonus. But there might be times where the character wants to call upon the powers of evil i.e to hurt the guy that killed his family in a bad way and open new story options that way.
So rather than the alignment stats being the cause of why a character acts in a certain way, they are an effect of how the character acts.
Nobody is stopping the player to put 5 points into good and only ever invoke that to get the maximum bonus, but this way the bonus will only be applicable in e certain subset of scenarios. So by diversifying and changing alignments he might forgo an immediate bonus that he could have used and open up new ways to use it in the future.

Or perhaps the DM decides that the character has to roll a d6 to increase an alignment stat because of his actions without the player invoking the power himself.
Another possible solution off the top of my head: make it so the bonus to the roll is not equal to the alignment stat, but is the stat plus some fixed value. Maybe even a d4 die roll, so if you have 5 good points, your "good" bonus is d4+5, but even if you have 0 points, you still get a d4 to add.
 

miggyG777

Explorer
Another possible solution off the top of my head: make it so the bonus to the roll is not equal to the alignment stat, but is the stat plus some fixed value. Maybe even a d4 die roll, so if you have 5 good points, your "good" bonus is d4+5, but even if you have 0 points, you still get a d4 to add.
That would amount to pretty high bonuses. As far as I can see the +5 is the limit because it theoretically means you get a roll with advantage.
 

Olrox17

Explorer
That would amount to pretty high bonuses. As far as I can see the +5 is the limit because it theoretically means you get a roll with advantage.
True. Then you could have +1 as minimum base bonus, so even if you have 0 points in an alignment, you get at least a +1.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
I don't see alignment as broken, so I dont see a need to fix it. But I do see that some would feel that it is lacking a mechanism to be used at the table. As such what is presented in the OP is intriguing.

But, it also seems tedious and a hassle that is frought with debates and arguements of what is what. Hence more reasons it does not appeal to me.
 

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